Georgia law enforcement officials discuss use of force at traini - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Georgia law enforcement officials discuss use of force at training convention

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across Georgia are in downtown Savannah for three days of training, learning new ways to keep citizens safe.  

Tuesday night's topic focused on the use of force. When should it be used, how should it be used, and what can law enforcement do better?

State officials proposed a new plan to give a little more structure and clarity to when and how force should be used.

There is no question this idea or use of force has come to the front of everyone's mind with the situation going on in Ferguson, MO. The meeting was scheduled long before that incident took place, but officials said they have these discussions to make sure law enforcement knows what they can and cannot do, and they hope the public will learn that as well.

 The annual training has been scheduled for a long time, and Tuesday night's focus will be on the rules and guidelines law enforcement have to follow when they are pushed to use force and the possible fallout when that occurs.

What goes through an officer's mind when they are making an arrest? What happens if the suspect turns violent?

"Situations like that can quickly become a chief's worst nightmare," said Garden City Police Chief David Lyons.

A new model was presented on Tuesday night to leaders across the state that could give their officers a better idea of when they use of force is appropriate and make those guidelines the same across the board; it is called the Control Model.

"The goal is to deescalate the situation and not force the situation," said Lyons. "I think that is the goal of the new model."

"It evolved into talking about control as opposed to reacting to," said Professor and author Greg Conner. "It shouldn't have been this gun, or I should not have hit him with this stick. Most of the time we are reactionary, for the first time I think we are being proactive."

Conner made it clear on Monday during a meeting that law enforcement today is held to a much different standard than they were a decade ago, and he also said there needs to be more uniformed definition of force.

"We have many departments that still cannot define what force is," said Conner. "There are many that define it one way that is not force, and others that don't define something that is force that is. I think we need a constant dialogue, but we need more design and direction."

Conner says the biggest issue that law enforcement has faced in the past 25 years is timing, when in the situation is force used. But Lyons said that will always be hard to control, no matter how many models are created.

"One thing that you can't design in a model is what is in the officer's mind," Lyons said. "What they are thinking? What is their fear level? We try and control that somewhat with training."

And they said training can't just be for law enforcement.

"Half of the training has not taken place," said Conner. "If we are here and we are sworn to protect them, then the public needs to be a part of the training."

"We are all going to be tried in the court of public opinion, regardless of what the situation is eventually," said Lyons.

And that is why they want to create a model that puts in place unilateral rules that the officers and public understand and agree to accept.

Conner made it clear on Monday during a meeting that law enforcement today is held to a much different standard than they were a decade ago, and he also said there needs to be more uniformed definition of force.

"We have many departments that still cannot define what force is," said Conner. "There are many that define it one way that is not force, and others that don't define something that is force that is. I think we need a constant dialogue, but we need more design and direction."

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